What does Stephen Strasburg’s contract mean for the Mets?

strasburg-harveyThe ink hadn’t dried on Stephen Strasburg’s new contract before Mets pitchers – Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, and, especially Matt Harvey – all began dancing a collective jig.

The much hyped right-handed strikeout machine signed a 7-year, $175 million contract extension without ever having hit the open market. This is very surprising given that Strasburg’s agent is Scott Boras, notorious for pushing free agency to its absolute limits. The contract includes quite a bit of deferred money and the now popular three-year opt-out, but it averages $25 million per season.

This is remarkable given that this pitcher has never won 20 games or a Cy Young Award. Yes, he’s put up some big strikeout numbers and has produced an impressive 3.07 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in his six plus seasons. Yes, he’s still just 27 years old and seems to really be taking it to the next level this year. But besides early results, hype and Boras, Strasburg also shares the same elbow scar as Matt Harvey.

Harvey is the closest of the Mets big five to free agency. Currently in his first year of arbitration, Harvey is under two more years of control before hitting the open market after the 2018 season. Should he consider going down this same path, Harvey would do so two years from now, at age 29. On the books for a little over $4 million this year, Harvey will see arbitration raises each of the next two seasons. During that time the Mets will have three options – a) ride it out, enjoy the discounted ace and let him walk as a free agent b) trade him in 2017 when he’s hopefully rebuilt his value and is an appealing trade chip as he’ll have a year of control remaining or c) attempt to make a deal with the devil Boras.

Should they go the latter route, a lot will depend on how Harvey performs between now and then. This writer is confident that Harvey’s recent struggles are a hiccup and he’ll soon go back to being an ace pitcher. Should this regression prove to be ongoing or should he suffer another significant injury, all bets are off. For the sake of comparison, let’s say Harvey goes back to being Harvey and warrants such a contract. He’d be 30 at the start of it and it would take him through his age 36 season. Hard to say right now if that makes sense or not.

The tricky part for the Mets front office and ownership is going to be deciding which of the big five they’ll invest in long term. Even if we win the World Series this year and next (imagine that for just a second, smile, breathe, come back) the revenue windfall still wouldn’t afford us the luxury of doling out five Strasburg contracts. That would amount to $125 million, nearly their current team payroll. Unless you filled the lineup and bullpen with nothing but rookie contracts, this wouldn’t work.

The good news is we have time. Wheeler hits free agency after the 2019 season, deGrom and Syndergaard after 2020 and Matz after 2021. Odds are, sadly, that at least one of these guys will get wiped out (or at least rendered mediocre) by injury before they reach free agency. One of them may end up getting traded. Realistically, we can only hope to lock up two or three of them at these prices, but it’s a long way off. Which two or three wind up remaining in a Mets uniform into their 30s will depend on performance, health, and market factors.  We have no clue what to expect from Wheeler upon his return and Matz still has to prove he can stay healthy. The only thing we can say with some certainty is that these young pitchers all have a shot to be very rich some day.  

10 comments for “What does Stephen Strasburg’s contract mean for the Mets?

  1. May 13, 2016 at 10:21 am

    What does it mean for the Mets? Well, hopefully it completely eliminates the idea that the gosh darn evil Scott Boras takes every single one of his high profile clients to free agency.

    As easily the best free agent pitcher available, Strasburg would have been looking at David Price money if he hit the market, assuming he pitched the remainder of ’16 as he has since returning from the DL last August.

    His last 10 starts of 2015 — 66.1 IP, 92 Ks, 1.90 ERA
    First 7 starts of 2016 — 49 IP, 58 Ks, 2.76 ERA (2.26 FIP)

    He’s 11-2 since last August.

    He’s a premier pitcher who finally looks healthy. Sure, he absolutely comes with injury risk. And that’s why this is a good deal for both sides. The Nats are locking in the discount now which wouldn’t be there if he made 30+ starts this year.

    And Strasburg has a huge contract if he does get hurt and has the ability to hit the market again at age 30 if he’s healthy and dominating.

    The agent got his client a good deal, one that worked for both sides. That’s the takeaway.

  2. MattyMets
    May 13, 2016 at 11:14 am

    As hateable as Boras is, if my childhood dream had come true and I was pitching in the majors there’s no one else I’d want as my agent.

    • Name
      May 13, 2016 at 1:52 pm

      Not if you’re a 2nd tier free agent like Stephen drew.

  3. BK
    May 13, 2016 at 4:25 pm

    Harvey is going to test free agency, assuming he becomes Harvey again. What Strasburg did is the exception, not the rule. If these pitchers continue to develop, we’re looking at $200M+ contracts each.

    • James Preller
      May 13, 2016 at 5:38 pm

      I think Mets can sign two to big contracts. The others? Trade one. Another might become a non-issue do to injury or decline. The other maybe you use him while you’ve got him, then let another team overpay. The issue is getting it right. Who do you keep? Today I think it’s Thor and Jake. But these things are fluid.

  4. Chris B
    May 13, 2016 at 8:00 pm

    If I had to predict now.

    Ride Harvey until Trade Deadline of his contract year, trade to a team in need for more young pitchers.

    Sign Jake to a team friendly deal (he’s the oldest of them all which would justify the deal)

    Wheeler falls off/doesn’t live to hype. Let him walk.

    Sign Thor to monster deal.

    Sign Matz to monster deal.

    Repeat process using assets gained from Harvey.

  5. Metsense
    May 14, 2016 at 9:32 am

    Teams that pay pitchers tons of money for long term contracts are playing with fire. The discussion for extension should begin after the first year of arbitration and should only be for a 2 to 3 year post arbitration extension. The salary should be an “overpay”, much like the Cespedes contract and the team should try to avoid opt outs. If a pitcher is not receptive then the shopping process begins and the team has a full year to find a Shelby Miller or RA Dickey deal. Restock your minors with blue chippers so that the beat goes on. Allowing these caliber pitchers to leave for just a compensation pick would be unwise. Sandy has done a good job of timing the contracts and staggering the payroll . He should not fall into the trap of the long term Strasburg (or Santana) deal but have the fortitude, confidence, and conviction to keep moving the team forward.

  6. Matty Mets
    May 14, 2016 at 1:11 pm

    A lot of good points. For now, we’ve got the golden goose – paying a half million a year for 4 pre-arb studs and just 4mil for Harvey in arb1 while other teams are paying 10-12 million for mediocre veterans.

    We have to also factor in that Familia’s not gonna come cheap forever also. We have a 2-3 window to keep the band together and that includes some of the bats too

    • Matty Mets
      May 15, 2016 at 9:53 am

      Just read it. Boras is something else.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: